Every January, employers go into high gear to prepare H-1B cap-subject petitions for filing on the first business day of April.  This year, employers must also monitor for potential regulatory changes to the filing process.  On December 3, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register titled “Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens.”  The 30-day public comment period closed January 2, 2019, and employers remain in wait for the impact to this year’s cap-subject filings.  While President Trump tweeted about H-1B changes that “are soon coming,” it is not clear whether they relate to the proposed rule.

The proposed rule seeks to accomplish two goals: streamline the H-1B selection and filing process by creating a pre-registration system, and increase the chances of selection for H-1B petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption by reversing the order in which the cap lotteries are run.

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (the agency responsible for immigration benefits within DHS) received over 800 comments on the proposed regulation, including comments from the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  The public comments criticize the proposed timeline and logistics, identify impacts stretching beyond immigration law, and suggest that the proposed rule may face court challenges if implemented:

Continue Reading Impact of Proposed H-1B Rule on Annual Cap Filings

The federal government has entered its fourth week of a partial shutdown since December 22, 2018 because of a budget impasse between Congress and the White House.  This shutdown is the longest since 1995-1996, when the federal government was closed for 21 days, and now represents the longest lapse in federal funding in recent history.

Many agencies and departments continue operations through this shutdown because of previously approved funding bills or the essential nature of their personnel.  The information below summarizes the operating status of agencies responsible for immigration-related activities most relevant to employers. Continue Reading US Government Shutdown Impact on Immigration-Related Services

As the final Brexit date approaches, EU-member state governments are putting in place specific plans for British nationals living within the EU after March 29, 2019.  Earlier this week the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (“IND”) shared a template letter it will begin sending to UK nationals legally residing in the Netherlands regarding the continuation of residence post Brexit in case there is no withdrawal agreement ratified between the UK and the EU.  Key points contained in the letter include:

In a recent Bloomberg Law article discussing what 2019 has in store on the immigration front, Liz Stern remarks on the changing landscape of business immigration as USCIS challenges and narrows the definition of the H-1B specialty occupation visa category.  Although comprehensive immigration reform is not likely, Stern anticipates more litigation as businesses become increasingly frustrated with the shift in adjudication patterns, new regulations, and changes to specific immigration categories and benefits.  For more on what’s in store in the new year, read the article.

Last week the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, published an article detailing a preliminary draft for a new immigration law in Germany.  Although the draft is not publicly available, the newspaper revealed that the new immigration law is set to be approved by Angela Merkel’s cabinet on December 19, 2018.  According to Süddeutsche Zeitung the key aspects of the law are as follows:

  • Any foreign national who signs an employment contract and meets qualification requirements (or their equivalent) will be permitted to work in Germany.  The new draft would strip away a key requirement of the current law – no longer requiring a “priority check” of whether a German or EU citizen is available to fill the same position.
  • Skilled workers will be provided the opportunity to move to Germany for a period of six months to search for employment.  Skilled workers will be issued a residence permit that provides permission to work or to seek employment.  Applicants will be required to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the German language, the ability to pay for the cost of living in Germany, and the attainment of “equivalence” of their qualification (e.g., academic or other credentials).
  • The draft law also contains certain provisions governing refugees, including the ability to work in Germany for two years after having completed their qualification training in Germany.

Additional details are expected to be made publicly available once the new law is approved.

According to a Financial Post article, US Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) permanently barred a Vancouver man with ties to the marijuana industry from entering the United States on November 14, 2018.  The individual, who invests in a Canadian cannabis business, was traveling from Vancouver to Las Vegas to attend a cannabis convention and tour a marijuana facility.  According to the article, when CBP learned that the individual “was going down to tour the marijuana facility and that he was an investor in marijuana, they gave him a lifetime ban.”

Under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, an individual is inadmissible to the United States if they are, or have been, “an illicit trafficker in any controlled substance…or is or has been a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with others in the illicit trafficking in any such controlled or listed substance or chemical, or endeavored to do so.”  While investors in the Canadian marijuana industry are generally admissible to the United States according to a CBP statement revised in October 2018, an individual may be determined to be inadmissible if they are traveling to the United States for reasons related to the marijuana industry.  The Government of Canada’s website reiterates CBP’s inadmissibility warning.

The media has reported news of at least one other cannabis investor receiving the same bar earlier in 2018.

A federal judge has barred President Trump’s recent asylum ban, now forcing the administration to accept all migrants crossing the southern border who seek protection, rather than limit asylum requests to U.S. ports of entry. As of last evening, Judge John Tigar of the U.S. District Court of Northern California issued a temporary restraining order that will require the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to process all individuals crossing the California, Arizona, and Texas border. The bar will remain until a scheduled hearing to be held on December 19, when the judge will revisit the court’s view of a permanent injunction.

The judge’s bar quickly halts the administration’s new rule, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ accompanying policy guidance, which limit asylum pleas to official ports of entry between the United States and Mexico. The administration stated the restriction was necessary to protect U.S. national security from the migrant caravan, as 7,000 migrants, mainly from Honduras, began to arrive in Tijuana over the weekend.

The U.S. district court opinion describes the Congressional intent to offer asylum to all applicants, whether at designated ports of arrival or not, as explicitly cited under 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Mayer Brown attorneys, including partner Paul Hughes, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court of the Middle District of North Carolina, challenging the legality of the August 9, 2018 USCIS policy memorandum on the accrual of unlawful presence for F, J, and M visa holders.

If an individual accrues more than 180 days of unlawful presence, she is subject to a 3-year reentry bar. That bar grows to 10 years if the individual is unlawfully present for 365 days or more. Previously, USCIS calculated unlawful presence as beginning the day after an immigration officer or immigration judge determined that the holder of an F, J, or M visa is out of status. That policy provided necessary notice to individuals, providing them an opportunity to cure any status violation prior to the imposition of a reentry bar. This policy has controlled for more than 20 years.

On August 9, USCIS issued a policy memorandum that purports to create a fundamentally different policy regarding unlawful presence. Now, USCIS will backdate unlawful presence, beginning the clock on the date of the factual situation which rendered an individual out of status. Thus, when an immigration officer or judge determines that an individual is out of status, the result is an automatic 3- or 10-year reentry bar if more than 180 days have elapsed from the underlying factual circumstances, which is often the case.

Plaintiffs include Haverford College, The New School, Guilford College, and Foothill-De Anza Community College District, among others.  The universities argue that the revised policy is “intentionally designed to impose tens of thousands of reentry bars” of up to 10 years on holders of visas typically granted for academic purposes.  The complaint states that now it is “impossible for an individual to know with certainty what conduct will trigger such a reentry bar. An individual may commit conduct that he or she has no reasonable way of knowing will later cause an USCIS officer or immigration judge to later declare him or her ‘out-of-status,’ and—because of the new policy of backdating—will be immediately subject to a reentry bar once that decision is made.”

Read more here

In an article appearing in Law360, Lisa Pino offers expert analysis on the key points from USCIS’s new Notice to Appear (“NTA”) policy.  In the article, Pino notes that although the new NTA policy does not currently impact employment-based petitions, it nevertheless “is of concern to unauthorized immigrants.”  Pino writes that “unless applicants seeking immigration benefits are confident that their respective applications will be approved, their chances and risk of facing an NTA and a subsequent deportation proceeding in court have now significantly grown.”  Read the article here.

In June 2018, USCIS circulated a new policy memo providing guidance on when cases should be referred for deportation proceedings and when Notices to Appear (“NTAs”) should be issued in instances where applicants are deemed inadmissible or deportable.  Implementation of the new policy was delayed as USCIS determined how exactly the new policy would be put into action.  While we have yet to see how implementation will take shape, the policy is now in force and will be incrementally rolled out.

Law360 discusses what the new policy means for foreign nationals whose status-bearing applications are denied.  The article quotes Paul Virtue who states that the memo is “clearly designed to ensure that a decision not to issue an NTA should rarely be taken.”  Read the article here.  USCIS has also released Q&As from its September 27, 2018 stakeholder teleconference on the new policy memo.